Having scraped home in a bruising match against Samoa at the weekend, South Africa coach Eric Sauls is expecting another physically demanding encounter when his team face England in their IRB Junior World Championship semi-final on Wednesday.
South Africa finally prevailed 16-11 in their final Pool B match in Wrexham on Saturday after being stretched for the first time in the tournament by the dogged Pacific islanders.
Sauls and his team were greatly relieved when centre Stefan Watermeyer crossed for a late try to seal the points at the Racecourse Ground, but it was probably the jolt they needed after cruising to victory over both USA and Scotland in their earlier pool matches, piling on 26 tries in the process.
“The Samoans were very tough,” said Sauls ahead of Wednesday’s crunch game against Nigel Redman’s team, conquerors of Australia in their Pool C decider.
Complacent and lucky
“We weren’t expecting it. In fact, we went into the game very complacent because in the previous two games we had very high scores. We were so lucky we pulled away at the end – our defence pulled us through.”
Sauls said the team had been expecting to face Australia in the last four but were ready to take on England in another test of muscle at the Cardiff Arms Park.
“We expect it will be a very close contest,” he said. “It will be tough. They are very physical, especially from the lineouts. They’ve got big strong backline players, good wings and full back, so it will be very tough.”
Sauls said several of his players had come away from the Samoa match with bumps and bruises. “They were exhausted after the game because it was very physical.
“The English [will provide] more of the same thing. They bullied the Australians up front. They were really physical and that’s why they could pull that game through at the end.
“The contest will basically be determined by two packs of big forwards. If you get quality possession you can start building momentum and get guys running angles but as soon as you struggle with first quality ball, it will be a long day for you.”
Sauls is yet to finalise his starting 15 owing to injury concerns. “I’m just talking to the medical team.
"There are one or two key players that we’re still not sure of and we’re waiting for the results from the doctor but I’m positive even the two or three guys on the bench can do the job. I think we’ve got enough depth in the positions.”
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